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Part of the List of Dharma Terms from the Buddhist Ayurveda Course (SKT220 ) on Sanskrit Terms of Ayurveda and Dharma

Ngondro - Preliminary Practices

Ngondro - Preliminary Practice

Ngöndro (Tib., wylie: sngon 'gro,<ref>Dharma Dictionary (2008). Preliminary Practices (sngon 'gro). Source: :// (accessed: January 29, 2008)</ref> pronounced “nundro”; known in Sanskrit as pūrvaka<ref>Source: :// (accessed: Thursday February 4, 2010)</ref><ref>Dharma Fellowship (2009). The Way of the Yogi. Source: :// (accessed: Thursday February 4, 2010)</ref>) refers to the preliminary, preparatory or foundational 'practices' or 'disciplines' (Sanskrit: sadhana) common to all four schools of Tibetan Buddhism and also to Bön. The Tibetan term ngöndro literally denotes meanings in the range of “something that goes before, something which precedes.”<ref>Rangjung Yeshe Tibetan-English Dictionary of Buddhist Culture. Source :// (accessed: June 17, 2008),</ref> The preliminary practices establish the foundation for the more advanced and rarefied Vajrayana sadhana which are held to engender realization and the embodiment of enlightenment. In addition to what is generally denoted by the term ngöndro, preparatory practices may also be prescribed for senior and advanced sadhana, eg.: “differentiating saṃsāra and nirvāṇa” (Wylie: 'khor 'das ru shan) is the preparatory practice of Kadag Trekchö.<ref>Pettit, John Whitney (1999). Mipham's Beacon of Certainty: Illuminating the View of Dzogchen, the Great Perfection. Boston: Wisdom Publications (1999). ISBN 0861711572. p.81</ref>.


The use of the practices of Vajrasattva, Mandala offering and Guru Yoga as preliminaries to the practice of anuttarayogatantra sadhanas was well established in India.

In Tibet, the tradition came to include prostration practice and the accumulation of large numbers of each practice.

Outer and inner preliminaries

In general the preliminary practices are divided into two sections or kinds: the first are the common or ordinary kind of preliminary practices, and the second are the special or extraordinary kind of preliminaries.

'Four preliminaries' or 'Four reminders' (Tibetan: ''thun mong ngon dro nam pa zhi''; ''tun mong gi ngon dro shi'')

The Namo Buddhist Glossary (undated) renders the “Four preliminaries” as the: <blockquote>

  • …four foundations of meditation (Tib. tun mong gi ngon dro shi) These are the four thoughts that turn the mind. They are reflection on precious human birth, impermanence and the inevitability of death, karma and its effects, and the pervasiveness of suffering in samsara.<ref>The Namo Buddha Glossary (undated). Four Foundations of Meditation. Source: :// (accessed: January 29, 2008)</ref>
  • …four ordinary foundations (Tib. tün mong gi ngon dro shi) This is meditation on the four thoughts that turn the mind towards dharma which are the precious human birth, impermanence, samsara, and karma.<ref>The Namo Buddha Glossary (undated). Four Ordinary Foundations. Source: :// (accessed: January 29, 2008)</ref>
  • …four thoughts that turn the mind (Tib. blo do nam shi) These are realizing the preciousness of human birth, the impermanence of life, the faults of samsara, and realizing that pleasure and suffering result from good and bad actions.<ref>The Namo Buddha Glossary (undated). Four Thoughts That Turn The Mind. Source: :// (accessed: January 29, 2008)</ref>


The common or ordinary preliminaries are often referred to as the “four thoughts which turn the mind towards Dharma”.

These consist of contemplations, reflections or meditations on:

  1. the freedoms and advantages of precious human rebirth
  2. the truth of impermanence and change
  3. the workings of karma
  4. the suffering of living beings within Samsara

NB: the Four Ordinary Foundations should not be conflated with the Satipatthana.

Inner preliminaries

The special or extraordinary kind of preliminaries consist of :

  1. taking of refuge in the three roots in conjunction with the performance of 100,000 prostration (Buddhism)|prostrations]] (purifying pride)<ref>'prostrations' may also be subsumed within sadhana repetitions of various vinyasa forms of yogic discipline, such as Trul Khor, eg.</ref><ref>


  2. cultivation of Bodhichitta (purifying jealousy). In some formulations this is included under 1.
  3. 100,000 mandala offerings (purifying attachment)
  4. 100,000 guru yoga practices (purifying delusion)

These practices purify negative deeds and accumulate merit. Traditionally ngöndro practice is done for the enlightenment of the spiritual aspirant and for the benefit of all sentient beings. That is, the merit of doing the practices is dedicated to all sentient beings. These practices can take 1,500 hours of work to accomplish once. Some practitioners do them multiple times. In retreat, that might take six months. Done mixed into daily life it might take years.

Various ngöndros

Ngöndro is an essential practice of all schools of Tibetan Buddhism as well as the indigenous Yungdrung Bön tradition. Each of the four main schools of Tibetan BuddhismGelug, Kagyu, Nyingma and Sakya have variations as to the order of the preliminaries, the refuge trees visualized, the lineage Gurus and deities invoked, prayers etc.

Despite these differences all Ngöndro practices have as their goal the enlightenment of the practitioner so that he/she may be of the greatest benefit to all sentient beings, i.e. the cultivation of “bodhichitta”. While some novices may feel that the Ngöndro are somehow “lesser” than various tantric practices, they are a complete path to enlightenment in and of themselves. The renowned Lama Patrul Rinpoche (1808-1887) is said to have practiced the Longchen Nyingthig Ngöndro repeatedly through of his life.

Before receiving advanced tantric practices from a qualified spiritual teacher a Ngöndro usually must be completed and fully internalized. Without this foundation, practicing Tantra would be like, “planting a scorched seed, nothing will come of it.”

This was not the case in India or early Tibet, however, as the formalized Ngöndro known today was developed in Tibet.




The various subsects of the Kagyu lineage tend to practice slightly different ngöndro practices. One of the most common in the Karma Kagyu lineage, called the Chariot for Travelling the Path to Freedom, was written by 9th Karmapa Wangchuk Dorje. In the Shambhala Buddhist community, a Primordial Rigden Ngöndro written by Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche is practiced as a preliminary to various terma-derived practices received by Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche. Practitioners later go on to practice the Karma Kagyu ngöndro and in some cases one of the Nyingma ngöndro practices.

There is also a recent english transliteration of Drukpa Kargyud Ngondro written by HH Shakya Rinchen, the 9th Jey Khenpo of Bhutan, titled “ The Chariot of Liberation to the Vajra Abode” with detailed footnote and important commentaries by HH Jey Tenzin Dondup, the 69th Supreme Lord Abbot of Bhutan.


The Longchen Nyingthik (Tib. “Heart Essence of the Vast Expanse”) is a Terma cycle revealed by the master Jigme Lingpa. Since its inception in the late 18th century, it has become one of the most widespread sets of teachings in the Nyingmapa tradition. It is particularly known and loved for its extensive commentarial literature (shastra), which includes practice manuals such as the famed Kunzang Lama'i Shelung (“Words of my Perfect Teacher”).

These teachings were originally transmitted by the master Padmasambhava to King Trisong Deutsen, the Dakini Yeshe Tsogyal and the Lotsawa (“translator”) Vairotsana at Samye Monastery in central Tibet. As the time for these teachings to spread was not yet right, they were then written in symbolic script by Yeshe Tsogyal, entrusted to the Dakinis, and hidden to be revealed at a later time. The king later reincarnated as the terton (“treasure revealer”) Jigme Lingpa. Then, recognizing the time was ripe for them to be practiced, put them down in writing and began to teach.

Jigme Lingpa was a reincarnation of two important masters, Vimalamitra<ref>Longchen Nyingtik at Rigpawiki</ref> and King Trisong Deutsen.<ref>Approaching the Great Perfection Simultaneous and Gradual Methods of Dzogchen Practice in the Longchen Nyingtig (2003) Van Schaik, Sam, Wisdom Publications, ISBN: 0-86171-370-2 p 33</ref> As the embodiment of these two figures, Tibet's two primary Dzogchen lineages were combined in him—the Vima Nyingthik and Khandro Nyingthik, both of which are contained in the Nyingthik Yabshi. Hence, the Longchen Nyingthig terma cycle is considered a condensation of these profound teachings.

The texts that were revealed by Jigme Lingpa, in their present-day form, comprise three volumes, known as the Nyingthig Tsapod (Wylie:snying thig rtsa pod). The numerous treatises (shastra), sadhanas and prayers it contains deal primarily with tantric practice, in particular the 'stages of Development' (generation stage - Tibetan: kye-rim) and Dzogchen.

The Nam Cho is the “sky / space treasure” terma as revealed by Terton Migyur Dorje in the Palyul tradition. This Ngöndro practice is known as “Buddha in the Palm of your Hand” (Liberation in the Palm of Your Hand) and is preliminary for Dzogchen practice, where one can realize the mind's nature.

The uncommon preliminaries are: Refuge, Bodhichitta, Mandala Offering, Long Mandala Offering, The Kusali Chod, Vajrasattva, Guru Yoga, Phowa (Transference of Consciousness), Chenrezig Generation in the Six Realms. It includes “The Vajra Verses of the Nam Cho Dzogchen.”

Terton Migyur Dorje received them from Arya Avalokiteshvara and Guru Rinpoche (Padmasambhava) and then transmitted them to Karma Changmed Rinpoche.


  • Sakya Ngöndro

The practice of ngöndros

Like other Vajrayana practices, ngöndro was once held in greater secrecy than today. Fifty years ago the only Westerners that would have known about Ngöndro would have been Himalayan seekers such as John Blofeld, Heinrich Harrer, and Alexandra David-Neel. Today, with the spread of Tibetan Buddhism to the West, there are many practitioners working on different stages of ngöndro at the various Tibetan Buddhist centers in the West, in addition to practitioners at centers and monasteries in Tibet, Nepal, Ladakh, India and Bhutan.


Further reading

Fair Use Bibliographic Sources

Fair Use: Primary Fair Use Compilation Source: Ron Epstein, Ph.D, compiler, Buddhism A to Z, Burlingame, California, Buddhist Text Translation Society, 2003, p. ISBN 0881393533 Paperback: 284 pages. and many other sources (see Bibliography).

Primary Original Source: The Tripitaka of Sutra, Shastra and Vinaya Dharma teachings (as found in the scripture storehouse of the Indian Sanskrit- Siddham, Chinese, Tibetan and Japanese traditions of the Nalanda Tradition of ancient Nalanda University) of Shakyamuni Buddha, and his Arya Sagely Bodhisattva Bhikshu Monk and Upasaka disciples.

These Good and Wise Advisors (Kaliyanamitra) Dharma Master teachers include Arya Venerables Om Tare Tuttare Ture Om Ah Hum and Namo to Jivaka, Charaka, Lao Zi - Mahakashapa, Ashwagosha, Shantideva - Hui Neng - Shen Kai Sheng Ren Shr, Bodhidharma, the 16 Nalanda Acharyas 1. Nagarjuna-Manjushri, 2. Arydeva, 3. Buddhapalita, 4. Bhavaviveka, 5. Chandrakirti and Chandragomin, 6. Shantideva, 7. Shantarakshita, 8. Kamalashila, 9. Asanga-Maitreya, 10. Vasubhandu, 11. Dignaga, 12. Dharmakirti, 13. Vimuktisena, 14. Haribhadra, 15. Gunaprabha, 16. Shakyaprabha; Dharmarakshita, Atisha, Tsong Khapa, Thogme Zangpo, Nyingma Padmasambhava, Yeshe Tsogyel, Machig Lapdron, Tilopa, Naropa, Milarepa, Langri Tangpa, Sakya Pandita, Kumarajiva, Xuan Zang, Baozhi, Hui Yuan, Daosheng, Changzhi, Fazang, Han Shan, Shi De, Yunmen, Nichiren, Honen, Shinran, Kukai, Dogen, Hakuin, Jamgon Kongtrul, Nyingma Penor Rinpoche, Bakula Rinpoche, Dagri Rinpoche, Kirti Tsenshab Rinpoche, Geshe Lama Kongchog, Longchen Rapjampa - Gosok Rinpoche, Phabongkha Rinpoche, Patrul Rinpoche, Tenzin Gyatso the Dalai Lama, Sakya Trizin, Hsu Yun, Hsuan Hua, Lama Zopa Rinpoche, Choden Rinpoche, Garchen Rinpoche, Karmapa, Mingyur Rinpoche, Geshe Ngwang Dakpa, Geshe Sopa Rinpoche, Seung Sahn, Thich Nhat Hanh, Ajahn Chah, Ajahn Sumedho, S. N. Goenka, Mama Ayur Punya Jyana Pushtim Kuriye Svaha, making offerings and b [[bowing at your feet I make requests. Please bestow on me the two attainments of Maha Punya and Maha Prajna Paramita. And Om Ah Hum thanks to other modern day masters. We consider them to be in accord with Tripitaka Master Hsuan Hua’s “Seven Guidelines for Recognizing Genuine Teachers

Nalanda Online University's teachings are based especially on the following Buddhist Scriptures: Lama Tsong Khapa's Lam Rim, the Dharma Flower Lotus Sutra, the Avatamsaka Sutra, the Shurangama Sutra, the Ksitigarbha Sutra, the Bhaisajya Guru Sutra, the Dharani Sutra, the Vajra Sutra, the Prajna Paramita Hridayam Heart Sutra, the Vimalakirti Sutra, the Sanghata Sutra, the Sutra of Golden Light, the Srimala Devi Sutra, the Sutra in 42 Sections, the Mahaparinirvana Sutra, the Hui Neng Sutra, Vasubandhu's Shastra on the Door to Understanding the Hundred Dharmas, Maitreya's Ornament for Clear Realizations (Abhisamayalamkara), Chandrakirti's Supplement to Nagarjuna’s Treatise on the Middle Way (Madhyamakavatara), Vasubandhu's Treasury of Manifest Knowledge (Abhidharmakosha), Eight Verses of Training the Mind (Logong), and the Tantras and Mantras of the Vajrayana the 42 Hands and Eyes, Guhyasamaja, the Kalachakra, the Vajrayogini, the Heruka, the Chakrasamvara, the Chod, the Hayagriva, the Hevajra, the Yamantaka, the Kalarupa, the Manjushri Nama Samgiti, the Vajrakilaya, the Vajrapani, the Vajra Claws Dakini, the Mahakala, the Tara, the White Umbrella Goddess (She Dan Do Bo Da La), Kirti Losang Trinle's Grounds and Paths of Secret Mantra, and Aku Sherab Gyatso's The Two Stages of the Guhyasamaja Tantra and their commentaries (shastras) by the above Arya Tripitakacharya Dharma Masters. Making offerings and bowing at your feet I make requests. Please bestow on me the two attainments of Maha Punya and Maha Prajna Paramita.

Secondary Fair Use Compilation Source: The Seeker’s Glossary of Buddhism, 2nd ed., San Francisco, California: Sutra Translation Committee of the United States and Canada, 1998:

Secondary Fair Use Compilation Source: Muller, Charles, editor, Digital Dictionary of Buddhism [DDB], Toyo Gakuen University, Japan, 2007: Username is “guest”, with no password. - Based in large part on the Dictionary of Chinese Buddhist Terms with Sanskrit and English Equivalents (by Soothill and Hodous) Delhi, India: Motilal Banarsidass, 1997.

Secondary Fair Use Compilation Source: Ehrhard, Diener, Fischer, et al, The Shambhala Dictionary of Buddhism and Zen, Boston, Massachusetts: Shambhala Publications, 1991. 296 pages. ISBN 978-0-87773-520-5,, Secondary Fair Use Compilation Source: Vaidya Vasant Lad, Textbook of Ayurveda, Ayurvedic Press, 2002; Vasant Lad, BAMS, MAsc, Ayurvedic Institute Gurukula Notes, Ayurvedic Institute, 1994-2006;

NOTE: Numerous corrections and enhancements have been made under Shastra tradition and “Fair Use” by an Anonymous Buddhist Monk Redactor (Compiler) of this Online Buddhist Encyclopedia Compilation)

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ngondro.txt · Last modified: 2016/02/01 07:51 (external edit)